I had a great dinner last night with 2 of the Preset Guys – 2 EXTREMELY smart and experience digital signage veterans who have done loads of work for high-profile companies/clients – Pat Hellberg and Dave Haynes. We talked a lot about the “DOOH” industry (and how to pronounce it?!) and “digital” signage and engagement and content and storytelling. And I’m putting as many things as I can in “quotes” just for Pat – know he likes that stuff. Anyway, it was a great discussion and it produced some interesting questions. I’m going to cover a few of them in the next couple of days.
First one up – this concept of “utility” and “experience.” Technology is beautiful because, along with many other things, it can effectively serve as a utility or create an experience. Most of the time, the same technology can accomplish both, there just might be different ways it manifests itself in doing so. Let’s take mobile for instance – if you want to simply opt someone into a communication stream/database, you can accomplish that through SMS (something very utilitarian) or through a QR Code (something more experiential).
As far as digital signage goes, there’s a large part of me that believes its primary benefit is one of utility. The platforms are dynamic and deep – they can hold a lot of content and ads. The signs are dynamic, potentially constantly in motion and just as potentially attention-getting. Place them at point of purchase, advertise whatever merchandise/deals you want, and you can change them on a daily basis. In that scenario, digital signage makes a lot of sense to serve a specific utility. Same can be said in quick-serve restaurants (QSR’s). Need to change the menu, or price, or nutritional value? Bang on the keyboard for a second and viola, the display is updated and you don’t have to reprint whatever it was you were using 5 years ago. Another great use for digital signage.
But what I want to know is where is the experience? Over the last year, I’ve heard software makers and hardware makers and IT guys and AV guys and “content” makers talk about networks. Networks, schmetworks. It drives me crazy that no one seems to be thinking about experiences. One-way, push messaging – regardless of how deep, dynamic and/or flashy it is – does not an experience make.
More and more, consumers want to have an experience with a brand. Typically, they like to dictate what that experience is, but they want an experience nonetheless. Not only do they WANT experiences, they’re starting to expect them. And when consumers expectations change, companies/brands and even entire industries, have to adapt to that change. Otherwise, they’re going to become irrelevant. And at the end of the day, how many brands want to become irrelevant? 0.
So, I really think the industry and all of the players within it are faced with a simple question – do you want to serve a utility? Or create an experience? If the answer is the latter, consumers don’t care about hardware and software and AV and IT and networks. They just want a great experience.
Can we make it so?